Saturday Reads: On the Bright Side of the Dark SidePosted: January 1, 2011 Filed under: Civil Liberties, Environmental Protection, Health care reform, Hillary Clinton: Her Campaign for All of Us, Iraq, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights | Tags: 2011, Airport security, Aldous Huxley, Baby boomers, Brazil, Chris Hedges, Dilma Rousseff, Ellis Island, Jon Huntsman, No Profit Left Behind, Orwell, Rabindranath Tagore, Scott sisters, TSA 11 Comments
Good evening and a Happy 2011, Sky Dancers.
Here are my Saturday offerings for the New Year. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the headlines, so I tried to mix in a few stories and thoughts of my own to put things into a more motivating and thoughtful perspective.
From McClatchy: “2011 looks grim for progress on women’s rights in Iraq… BAGHDAD — When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki introduced what he called a national partnership government two weeks ago, he included allies and adversaries, Arabs and Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis. One group, however, was woefully underrepresented. Only one woman was named to Maliki’s 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women’s rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq.“
From further down in the article: “After Maliki announced his lineup, Alaa Talabani, a female lawmaker from the northern Kurdistan region, delivered a rousing condemnation of the selection process to a packed legislative chamber. ‘The Iraqi women feel today, more than any other day, that democracy in Iraq has been slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism before,’ Talabani said, her voice quaking with emotion.”
“…slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism.” That is a powerful statement.
It reminds me of this Hillary quote: “To expand freedom to more people, we cannot accept that freedom does not belong to all people. We cannot allow oppression defined and justified by religion or tribe to replace that of ideology.” –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the wall’s collapse
The words of both Alaa Talabani and Hillary Clinton above make me think of dry drunks and switching addictions. It is as if there is a certain quotient of oppression junkies out there who just go from one form of subjugating others to the next.
Which brings me to my next link. From Chris Hedges’, a few days ago, at truth-out… “2011: A Brave New Dystopia… The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World.’ The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.”
My apologies if another frontpager or commenter has already spotlighted Hedges’ piece and I missed it, but I think this is important enough a read to merit a repeat linking.
Speaking of our impending total enslavement, Derek Kravitz at the Washington Post reports that “As frustration grows, airports consider ditching TSA… Some of the nation’s biggest airports are responding to recent public outrage over security screening by weighing whether they should hire private firms such as Covenant to replace the Transportation Security Administration. Sixteen airports, including San Francisco and Kansas City International Airport, have made the switch since 2002. One Orlando airport has approved the change but needs to select a contractor, and several others are seriously considering it. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which governs Dulles International and Reagan National airports, is studying the option, spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said. For airports, the change isn’t about money. At issue, airport managers and security experts say, is the unwieldy size and bureaucracy of the federal aviation security system. Private firms may be able to do the job more efficiently and with a personal touch, they argue.”
No Profit Left Behind strikes again.
Oh, and it strikes here too — from Alan Johnson at the Columbus-Dispatch — “Kasich emphasizes ‘business’: Governor-elect wants to ‘exploit’ resources, picks EPA, DNR chiefs… Kasich, a former Republican congressman who will take office Jan. 10, emphasized that he doesn’t plan to empower business at ‘the cost of environmental degradation.’ But in the next breath, he said he wants to ‘exploit the wonders of our state.'”
Exploit? Way to thread the business vs. environment needle ever so delicately. Teddy R. has got to be rolling in his grave when he sees today’s Republican party.
Moving along and keeping with the theme from Chris Hedges’ piece, this headline from Raw Story: “Judge warns of ‘Orwellian state’ in warrantless GPS tracking case… Police in Delaware may soon be unable to use global positioning systems (GPS) to keep tabs on a suspect unless they have a court-signed warrant, thanks to a recent ruling by a superior court judge who cited famed author George Orwell in her decision. In striking down evidence obtained through warrantless GPS tracking, Delaware Judge Jan R. Jurden wrote that ‘an Orwellian state is now technologically feasible,’ adding that ‘without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there is nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24/7.’ The ruling goes against a federal appeals court’s decision last summer that allowed warrantless tracking by GPS.”
Sounds like this judge in Delaware just may be looking out for us. So a little silver lining there.
In other uplifting reads… the Gray Lady has a very sentimental editorial today called “A Year Anew.”
From the link:“By now, of course, 2010 feels like a completely familiar, totally used-up year. But why does 2011 still sound like an annum out of science fiction? It’s not as though 2011 is a remoter outpost in the hinterland of the future than, say, 1971 was. Yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, living in the very future we tried to imagine when we were young so many years ago. Surely we must have colonies throughout the solar system by now. Surely hunger is no more, and peace is planet-wide. The coming of the new year reminds us, again, that we live, as we always have, somewhere on a sliding scale between utopia and dystopia and that we continuously carry our burdens and opportunities with us. 2011 is merely a new entry in our ancient custom of chronological bookkeeping, an arbitrary starting point for our annual trip around the sun. But it is also so much more. Who can live without fresh intentions, new purposes? Who does not welcome a chance to start over, if only on a new page of the calendar? Life goes on, but it goes on so much better with hope and renewal and recommitment. Last night was a night for banishing regrets. Today is for wondering how to live without new ones, how to do right by ourselves and one another.”
It’s probably nothing more than a neat little moment of synchronicity, but while reading the above, I couldn’t help but picture someone on the NYT editorial board reading Hedges’ column, getting depressed and a little drunk, and then deciding to respond with this editorial.
Next up from today’s Gray Lady, Bob Herbert has an op-ed on the suspension of the Scott sisters’ prison terms — “For Two Sisters, the End of an Ordeal… What is likely to get lost in the story of the Scott sisters finally being freed is just how hideous and how outlandish their experience really was. How can it be possible for individuals with no prior criminal record to be sentenced to two consecutive life terms for a crime in which no one was hurt and $11 was taken? Who had it in for them, and why was that allowed to happen? The Scott sisters may go free, but they will never receive justice.”
Those are good questions, but I doubt we will ever find any answers to them.
I saw a bunch of new year’s stories on Baby Boomers. I’m just going to link to a few of them without excerpting:
“Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65” (NYT)
“Baby Boomers Expected to Drain Medicare” (ABC)
“Baby Boomers helped democratize art” (USA Today)
With so many of the headlines being so hostile toward boomers, like the NYT and ABC ones, I was glad to see that last one from USA Today. I think all the demonization along generational lines is such a waste.
I have a couple more quick links before I wrap this up.
Over in Brazil, some exciting news. President Dilma Rousseff is sworn in! From Newsday: “Brazil’s first female president vows to end poverty.”
Newsweek has an interesting piece — “The Manchurian Candidate: When Barack Obama posted Jon Huntsman to Beijing, it looked like a crafty way to sideline a 2012 rival. Don’t bet on it.”
I hope commenter Pilgrim catches this one! I know she’s a Huntsman fan.
From Raw Story — “Kucinich: GOP’s anti-health reform push may fuel Medicare-for-all drive.”
Here’s hoping against Hope on that one.
And on that note, your historical trivia for January 1st. On this day in 1892… The Ellis Island Immigrant Station in New York opened.
I’d like to close with this verse from Tagore on this New Years…
MIND WITHOUT FEAR
(Gitanjali, Verse 35)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
Hope you are having a peaceful entry into the new year. Drop a note and let us know what you’re reading and thinking about in the comments if you get a chance.
New Year’s Eve ReadsPosted: December 31, 2010 Filed under: Global Financial Crisis, Gulf Oil Spill, health hazard, morning reads, the blogosphere, The Little Blog that could, The Media SUCKS, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, Wikileaks, Women's Rights | Tags: Brazil's first woman president, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Dilma Rousseff, Elizabeth Warren, Filibuster, Marine mammals struggle with oil, New Media Report, oil spill, oiled marshes, Oily beaches, Pew Research, Reform, Senate, Tom Udall, Transocean 28 Comments
Today we begin to say good bye to 2010 and the first decade of the millennium and century! What a decade and what a year it has been! I don’t know about you, but just the last five years alone have turned my life upside down. (Think Hurricane Katrina, BP Oil Tsunami, and the financial crisis that has empowered thugs like Governexorcist Jindal to enforce absolute budget austerity on Louisiana and higher education.) Despite all that, we’re going to have an Airing of the Gratitude thread as part of the-Little-Blog-That-Could’s New Year’s Celebration. I’ve bought my black eyed peas and cabbage. Now, I’m making my list of things that I resolve to appreciate for the thread. I’d like to invite you to think about yours too and join in. A lot of my gratitude comes under the heading of my daughters, dad and sister, and my friends. That includes you ! We’re a blogging community that was forged from some really tough political times.
Meanwhile, here are some headlines to gear you up for the coming year and decade. May things improve for the better!! May peace and sanity prevail!! May every one’s health and circumstances improve tremendously! Many, many blessings to each and every one of you!
Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the coming year? A CNN poll shows a lot of people are optimistic about the the world outlook, but less so about their personal situation. Men are much more optimistic than women. Where do you fit in?
The Senate appears to have reached its limit on perpetually trying to find 60 votes for cloture and taking every ‘threat’ of a filibuster seriously. Brian Beutler at TPM is following the reform movement and the possible hurdles it faces.
The consensus package will aim to put an end to “secret holds” (anonymous filibuster threats) and disallow the minority from blocking debate on an issue altogether. Those two reforms are fairly straightforward. The third is a bit more complex. Udall, along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), say there’s broad agreement on the idea to force old-school filibusters. If members want to keep debating a bill, they’ll have to actually talk. No more lazy filibusters.
But how would that actually work? In an interview Wednesday, Udall explained the ins and outs of that particular proposal.
“What we seem to have the most consensus on, is what I would call… a talking filibuster,” Udall told me. “Rather than a filibuster which is about obstruction.”
As things currently stand, the onus is on the majority to put together 60 votes to break a filibuster. Until that happens, it’s a “filibuster,” but it’s little more than a series of quorum calls, votes on procedural motions, and floor speeches. The people who oppose the underlying issue don’t have to do much of anything if they don’t want to.
Here’s how they propose to change that. Under this plan, if 41 or more senators voted against the cloture motion to end debate, “then you would go into a period of extended debate, and dilatory motions would not be allowed,” Udall explained.
As long as a member is on hand to keep talking, that period of debate continues. But if they lapse, it’s over — cloture is invoked and, eventually, the issue gets an up-or-down majority vote.
DDay at FDL has a thread up that offers a more detailed explanation. This includes a bit on what is being called ‘continuous debate’ which sounds a lot like that Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” or what every one was hoping for when Bernie Sanders started talking a few weeks ago.
After 41 Senators or more successfully maintain a filibuster by voting against cloture, they would have to hold the floor and go into a period of extended debate. Without someone filibustering holding the floor, cloture is automatically invoked, and the legislation moves to an eventual up-or-down vote, under this rule change.
This would institute the actual filibuster. The Majority Leader would have the capacity, which Harry Reid says he doesn’t have now, to force the minority to keep talking to block legislation. It becomes a test of wills at this point – whether the minority wants to hold out for days, or whether the majority wants to move to other legislation.
Here’s hoping we can fix our broken government that is driven by corporate cash and interests and railroaded by imperious Senators. I’m not very hopeful that congress can actually fix itself, but I guess we’ll see. I will say that I do think Tom Udall is a good man. He’s one of the people that is fighting for an improved process.
I still have Louisiana and New Orleans on my mind right now. We have a new headline in our ongoing BP Oil Gusher Saga. This is from Raw Story. It appears the company that owns the rig–Transocean–is refusing to co-operate with the federal oil spill probe. I just want to find out what went wrong so we don’t ever repeat it. I’m sure all they are thinking about is the upcoming lawsuits.
Transocean said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board does not have jurisdiction in the probe, so it doesn’t have a right to the documents and other items it seeks. The board told The Associated Press late Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction and it has asked the Justice Department to intervene to enforce the subpoenas.
Last week, the board demanded that the testing of the failed blowout preventer stop until Transocean and Cameron International are removed from any hands-on role in the examination. It said it’s a conflict of interest. The request is pending.
Our economy is in sad shape down here and a good part of it is due to Transocean’s role in destroying livelihoods and life around the Gulf of Mexico. Human lives aren’t the only thing still struggling from the gulf gusher. Here’s some local news on that.
Scientists at the institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport are studying why two endangered manatees died near the Gulf Coast in the past two weeks.
According to the Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Moby Solangi, cold water killed the manatees, but they should have migrated to warmer water.
Scientists are finding an unusually large number of Gulf of Mexico animals out of place since the BP oil spill began.
“It is no different than having a forest fire,” Dr. Solangi said Thursday. “The oil spill expanded, it went thousands of square miles and as their habitat shrunk, these animals moved to areas that were not affected.”
The problem, according to Dr. Solangi, is those unaffected areas were also unfamiliar to the animals.
Too many turtles, for instance, wound up in waters off the Mississippi coast, where they didn’t understand the food supply.
300 turtles died in Mississippi.
Many more were caught by fishermen.
“In the past years, we would get one or two or maybe three animals, this year we had 57,” Dr. Solangi said.
He and his staff at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies are now caring for dozens of sea turtles.
Of course, turtles in distress have to be swimming through some pretty nasty stuff in their environment. The shores along the Gulf are still oiled. Here’s a story about 168 miles of coast in Louisiana alone. This is from New Orleans own Times Picayune. Yes, folks, every single story I’m linking to on this is no more than a day old. We’re still living this nightmare down here.
Louisiana’s coastline continues to be smeared with significant amounts of oil and oiled material from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, with cleanup teams struggling to remove as much as possible of the toxic material by the time migratory birds arrive at the end of February, said the program manager of the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Teams, which are working for BP and the federal government.
There are 113 miles of Louisiana coastline under active cleanup, with another 55 miles awaiting approval to start the cleanup process, according to SCAT statistics. Teams have finished cleaning almost 72 miles to levels where oil is no longer observable or where no further treatment is necessary.
But that’s not the whole story for the state’s coastline. According to SCAT statistics, there’s another 2,846 miles of beach and wetland areas where oil was once found but is no longer observable or is not treatable.
Gary Hayward, the Newfields Environmental Planning and Compliance contractor who oversees the SCAT program, said that large area will be placed into a new “monitor and maintenance” category, once Louisiana state and local officials agree to the procedures to be used for that category.
“With rare exceptions, most of the marshes still have a bathtub ring that we have all collectively decided we aren’t going to clean any more than we already have because we’d be doing more harm to the marshes than the oil is going to be doing to them,” Hayward said.
Raise your hand if you heard any thing about any of this on your local newspaper or the national TV stations. We’re so out of sight and out of mind down here that some times I wonder if we’re even considered part of the country. You do realize that a majority of water-related commerce and a majority of oil comes through our state, don’t you?
The South American country of Brazil is looking forward to incoming-President Dilma Rousseff. The Nation has an article that spotlights the country’s first female elected head of state. I only hope to see a day like that for our country. I’d also like to end the Reagan legacy and get a real Democrat back in the White House. Yes, I’m clapping for Tinkerbelle.
When the confetti was still falling after her victory at the polls on October 31, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president-elect, said, “I want to state my first commitment after the elections: to honor Brazil’s women so that today’s unprecedented result becomes a normal event and may be repeated and enlarged in companies, civil institutions and representative entities of our entire society.”
In a country where women have typically played a limited role in politics, the election of a woman to Brazil’s highest office signals a major break from the past. But Rousseff’s term will likely be marked by continuity with her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula, a member of the Workers’ Party (PT), is leaving office with 87 percent support in the polls. An economist, PT bureaucrat, chief of staff under Lula and former guerrilla in the anti-dictatorship movements of the 1960s and ’70s, Rousseff was handpicked by Lula to follow his lead as president. When she is sworn in on January 1, she will inherit Lula’s popular legacy and will be further empowered by the fact that her party and allied parties won a majority of seats in the Senate and Congress. Not even Lula counted on this much support.
Well, at least somewhere, women are getting their due. I’m getting tired of living through stories where women in the U.S. watch jobs they should have go to less qualified people. Then, they get to do all the work without the title. What’s worse is when the boyz club in power make you participate in the charade of celebration and finding the royal heir. Like that legitimizes their malfeasance! Here’s yet another example in a WSJ story about Elizabeth Warren searching for a person for the job she would hold if the world weren’t so upside down. It seems less and less about qualifications and knowledge these days and more and more about appearances and appeasing the old boyz. Money screams!
White House adviser Elizabeth Warren and a top lieutenant are quietly asking business and consumer groups for names of people who might run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people familiar with the matter said.
The hunt suggests that Ms. Warren, a lightning rod for some bankers, might not be selected to lead the bureau, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that passed this summer. Still, many liberal groups will push to get her in the post.
President Barack Obama’s choice could signal how he intends to deal with resurgent Republicans in Congress. The feelers to business groups serve as a reminder that any nominee would likely need support from at least seven Republicans in the Senate to win confirmation.
Among the names being discussed are Iowa’s attorney general, Tom Miller; New York state bank regulator Richard Neiman; and former Office of Thrift Supervision director Ellen Seidman.
The reality is Obama fights for nothing but Obama. I know there are other Obama appointments coming up shortly and I’m trying to get a grasp on what I want to discuss with you on the proposed replacements for Larry Summers. Well, I know what I want to discuss but it’s more like trying to figure out how to describe what I see as the problem. As some one who rides both sides of the finance and economics line, I have some insight that many don’t have. Finance is where you make the money and it’s really based on chimera. I know the details and the proofs behind asset pricing models and it’s simply smoke and mirrors. Economics is where the brains and the real insight exists. There is going to most likely be a bland, uninspired replacement for Larry Summers. A finance person will undoubtedly win that appointment. Hence, we will get smoke and mirrors and meaningless numbers.
Once again, it’s the vision thing. All these appointments seem to reek of employing micromanaging corporate bureaucrats that are part of the problem. They can crank through the data but they can’t put it into perspective. As old President Bush used to say, no one seems to be good at the “vision thing”. No one is crafting a blue print that incorporates a better big picture based on what we already know. The Great Depression and the inflationary 70s–and definitely the failures of Reagan’s voodoo economics–are full of lessons that every one seems to be ignoring. We’re seeing the appointment of types that just muck around in the already mucked up bureaucracy decimated by Dubya Bush whose only inspiration appeared to be blowing things up like a psychopathic third grade with a bunch of firecrackers and a pond full of frogs.
Finance people have tons of numbers in search of a theory. They crunch that data until they come up with a hypothesis that fits their storyline. Macroeconomists have a broader sense of what the system needs to look like in order to really change things. Economics has theory proved endlessly by empiricists. Finance people have run amok since the 1980s and really, it’s time to end overt data mining and look to bigger principles.
This White House seems really short on values, vision, and a blueprint to carry our country forward into this new decade. We need an economic strategy that includes real job creation; not imaginary ‘saved’ jobs. We need to unwind any thing that’s too big too fail and empower small, facile, and agile companies. Our money needs to be concentrated on developing strategies and resources that we can nurture and renew. (No, corn ethanol is not the answer. Making higher education more expensive and less accessible to all is not the answer either.) We need to find a way to fulfill our promises to the weakest among us. Current income inequality is not only immoral but it’s at levels approaching the powder keg of revolutions. (Have you listened to a Teabot recently?) We can no longer be railroaded by the interests of the few just because they can afford to fund political campaigns. No government law should incent a business to leave its community in need to search out obscene profits elsewhere because government policy encourages it. We should not accommodate any country that buggers growth from us by proffering trinkets on credit. Vision is not a difficult thing. Fighting for what’s right should not be a difficult thing either unless you’re in the fight with the wrong motivation.
Compromise seems to come so easy these days because there’s nothing proffered but compromise. The original positions are badly compromised from the get-go. Law making is based on political victory and not victory for the country. No one is shifting real strategies due to midterm elections because there’s never been an overarching plan to begin with. Moving pieces around a chess board is not playing chess. Government at the highest levels has just gotten to be a muddled process with no guiding principles. The White House is intently putting mid-level bureaucrats from corporations and the Clinton administration in charge of making tasteless sausage. It’s just making things even more muddled and more muddled is not the type of change people want. No bold vision could ever include the likes Timothy Geithner, Joe Biden, or Bill Richardson in positions that require vision. Instead, we have people of vision–like Elizabeth Warren–hunting for acceptable seat warmers.
I would just like to say that the last two months of being more than a file cabinet has brought a lot of intriguing things to Sky Dancing. We have a growing number of readers and front pagers and I find that all very exciting. So, must other parts of the blogosphere. WonktheVote’ s excellent piece ‘What if this is as good as the Obama administration gets? ‘ made Mike’s Blog Round up at Crooks and Liars. Another surprise showed up last night from Pew Research Center and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. This time a reference and quote come from BostonBoomer on Julian Assange and the Wikileaks. Here’s their story and how we fit in.
Espousing a unique mix of politics, technology, free speech and transparency, WikiLeaks has captured the attention from bloggers in a way few stories ever do. It has been a focus of social media conversation for three weeks this month alone, with a discussion that moved from one dimension to the next. After centering on political blame, the value of exposing government secrets, and the importance of a free press, the debate took on yet a new angle last week.For the week of December 20-24, more than a third (35%) of the news links on blogs were about the controversy, making it the No. 1 subject, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
“It should go without saying that I do not approve of Assange’s behavior if the allegations against him are true. Nevertheless, I still believe the allegations are very convenient for the powers that be,” declared Sky Dancing.
The Center produces something that’s called the New Media Report. Here’s the description.
The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures the leading commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and compares those subjects to that of the mainstream press.
PEJ’s New Media Index is a companion to its weekly News Coverage Index. Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating today’s news information narrative and in shaping the way Americans interact with the news. The expansion of online blogs and other social media sites has allowed news-consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation. PEJ aims to find out what subjects in the national news the online sites focus on, and how that compared with the narrative in the traditional press.
In similar news, Technorati just gave us a new badge early this morning. It’s a nice little green rectangle that says TOP 100 US POLITICS. We’re currently 95. Not so bad for a blog that was just a file cabinet 2 months ago.
Our goals here include becoming part of the bigger conversation as well as providing more links and information to news items than we get via traditional main stream media outlets dominated by the concerns of advertisers and sources. We complement that with our commentary and explanations and yours. Yes. They hear us now.